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Godless for God's Sake - Nontheism in Contemporary Quakerism Paperback – 1 Feb 2006
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Current research does indicate that beliefs, behavior, and belonging are simply not congruent in individuals - meaning that what people do does not always follow in a cohesive fashion from what they believe nor do beliefs manifest into behaviors or attitudes automatically in a consistent direction (Chaves, Mark. 2010. SSSR Presidential address rain dances in the dry season: Overcoming the religious congruence fallacy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49(1):1-14). This applies to nontheists as well since the lines between religion and secularity are often blurred. In fact, parallels between atheism and religion are becoming more common place. For instance, the fact that atheists have created atheist communities, self identification of people as 'atheists' and attaching values to it, creating collective identities of 'atheists' in the first place as if there were common characteristics between people who lack a particular belief, organizations strictly focusing on atheism (like American Atheists and Freedom From Religion Foundation), development of atheist music (Dan Barker and his CDs), development of religious rituals like freethought weddings, funerals and even baby dedications (Greg Epstein, an atheist chaplain, does this see NPR Report called "Removing Religion from Holidays a Tall Order" 12/27/07), atheist apologetics books by atheists defending atheism, atheist evangelism like Peter Boghossian's "A Manual for Creating Atheists" that strictly promotes atheist missionary work and seeks to convert unbelievers of atheism into their fold, emergence of atheist books on atheist parenting and how to raise your children as atheists (see next paragraph), participation and membership of atheists and atheist families in religious congregations (for diverse reasons), the existence of atheist chaplains in the military and universities serving the exact same functions as religious chaplains, numerous spiritual books on humanism, legal treatments of atheism as religion in some court cases in the US, and many other social realities and manifestations seems to show that nontheism has many more dimensions than is often admitted.
Indeed many books on atheism do not seem to emphasize that "atheism" is a major category of religion (the opposite of the major category called "theism") and that both theism and atheism can be split into many subcategories and divisions - usually into specific religions like Taoism or Islam. Religiosity and secularity cut both ways. Let us not forget the irreligious diversity in theism such as indifferent theists, agnostic theists, and deists. Europe has a good chunk of diverse configurations such as unbelieving theists, believing atheists, and those who are just culturally, not epistemically, embraceful (i.e. "Scandinavian Paradox"). Also lets not forget that many atheist religions do exist (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism, Church of Satan, Ethical Culture, Unitarian Universalism, Jewish Humanism, Raelianism, Scientology, other Humanist groups, etc). Atheist parenting books like "Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion" and "Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief" offer some contact information on some of these. Other atheist religions can be found in The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions and The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of UFO Religions. A few books have tackled religion without theism, for example, Religion Without God by Ray Billington and Religion without God by Ronald Dworkin may shed much more light on this discussion. Another book like Godless is Christian Atheist: Belonging without Believing which may be of interest to some. Raelianism offers a purely naturalistic and explicitly atheist religion which may be of interest to those wanting to learn more about diversity in atheism (fundamental texts are found in "Intelligent Design: Message from the Designers". Britain has an interesting history with "secular religion" as well (see Varieties of Unbelief: Atheists and Agnostics in English Society, 1850-1960).
These 27 atheist Quakers offer much of their biographies and experiences that have lead them to stay within the Quaker tradition and how they see "religion". They are quite diverse just as theists are about these things and looking at etymology of the word "religion" would help in pinpointing how broad religion is. I won't spoil any details in the book, but their views are really quite open to many possibilities of understanding religion and are quite blunt about their nontheism. For further research on the diversity in atheism other cultures please check out the following 3 research texts Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America's Nonbelievers and There Is No God: Atheists in America and Atheism and Secularity [2 volumes] (Praeger Perspectives) (worldwide sociological data on beliefs and cultures). In "Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment", Phil Zuckerman did a qualitative study and interviewed about 150 Danes and Swedes to see how they cope with life without theistic beliefs. However, he does note that just because some people do not have theistic beliefs, that does not mean they are without religion or are irreligious. Another excellent text is "State and Secularism: Some Asian Perspectives" which offers great perspectives from Asian cultures.
A relevant scholarly collection of criticisms on the New Atheism and its social dimensions/impact please read Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal (Studies in Critical Social Sciences). Since the New Atheists are popular and do provide rigid and stigmatized versions of atheism, it good to consider criticisms of those versions.
Other international studies on atheism and secularity that discuss the religious diversity among the secular can be found in Kosmin, Barry A. and Ariela Keysar, Editors. 2007. "Secularism & Secularity: Contemporary International Perspectives". Hartford, CT: Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC). Also, qualitative research on borderlands and overlap between nontheism, belief, and religion is available (see for instance, Rosen, Ina. 2009. "I'm a Believer - But I'll Be Damned If I'm Religious: Belief and Religion in the Greater Copenhagen Area - A Focus Group Study. Lund Studies in Sociology of Religion. Volume 8).
In the end, the definition of atheism (from the Greek "a" (lack) + "theos" (god) + -isma (belief or condition)) means to lack beliefs in gods only. Everything beyond God - is optional - even religion. Probably people should see theism and atheism as components of both religion and secular since none of these terms are ever mutually exclusive or with hard boundaries in real life.
The value of this book is that it compiles the thoughts of many leading Quaker non-theists. The down side is that many of them are holding positions that are present day theistic positions. The "death of God" movement was not a denial of God but a denial that we held a proper image of God, even a denial of the possibility of our holding a proper image. So the image is denied in order to allow the reality whatever it is to live. That is what Eckhart meant.
So I thank the contemporary Quaker non-theists for telling us contemporary theists what they think. On the other hand, I am hardly moved by their thinking. It is irrelevant to a Eckhart theist.